Ze Big Trip

La vie est un voyage

Ski Surf and Sand

6 avril 2011

The “wet” coast certainly is living up to its reputation this year; It feels like we’ve had nothing but rain since December! We’d been toying with the idea of a skiing trip up to Mt Washington for a while, so, on Thursday, with the sun shining and the weather forecast calling for a decent weekend, we threw some gear in the van and headed off on an afternoon ferry to Vancouver Island. We spent the next few days skiing and combing the beach of the Pacific Rim National Park.

We took advantage of the great weather and took our time driving the 160km up the east coast of the island. Our first stop was at Rathtrevor Provincial Park, known for its warm swimming beach in the summer.

Though it was a little chilly still for a dip, we had a nice walk, watching the birds over the water.

There have been loads of bald eagles around this year and we spotted a couple of them high in the trees that line the beach.

It’s parenting time for the birds now, so they spend a lot of time scanning the ground and water for food (fish and rodents) and carrying it to their nests in the trees.This guy kept his eye on Roland…

After the beach, we stopped in Parksville for a round of mini-golf. It’s a great course, complete with dyed blue water, a pirate ship, and a windmill!

It was a close race, but Roland won bragging rights in the end!

Though a four lane highway now runs up the island, we followed the old coastal road, which is slower, but definitely more scenic.

The sun was setting as we neared Courtenay, our destination for the night. The area is great for oysters and fishing…

…a fact well known to the birds as well!

The town of Courtenay is just a half an hour drive from Mt Washington, so we found ourselves a hotel for the night, in order to get an early start on the hill in the morning. Unfortunately, our dreams of whooshing down the slopes under a bright sun were not to be, as we woke up to rain. This did, however, translate to lots of fresh snow on the mountain!

Mt Washington, though not one of the biggest ski resorts in the province, averages over 10m of snowfall yearly, giving it one of the deepest snow packs in Canada. (I guess all the coastal rain is good for something!)And being a weekday, we had the mountain almost all to ourselves!

Neither of us had been skiing since the last time we were at Mt Washington, in 2007, so we were a little rusty!

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The sun did poke itself through the clouds a little, but we weren’t treated to the sweeping views of the ocean that can sometimes be had from the top of the mountain.

By the time 3:30 rolled around and the lifts were closing, it was all we could do to drag ourselves to the van and roll down the hill. After catching up with some friends who live in Courtenay, we headed south, planning to catch the ferry back to Saltspring Island. The weather seemed to be clearing off, so, feeling optimistic, we made a last minute decision to drive west to Long Beach on the other side of the island.

Not relishing the idea of a three hour drive along windy, mountain roads in the dark, we pulled into a campground along the way, sleeping in the back of the van. Luckily, we had thrown in sleeping bags and mattresses! The next day, we awoke to find we were next to a misty lake.

A short walk away we found a series of petroglyphs, carved into the side of the rock

Although little is known about this prehistoric artwork, they are thought to depict mythical creatures and are the work of the Hupacasath First Nation, who traditionally occupied this area.

Partially submerged in the lake, erosion is taking it’s toll on the carvings

From here, we kept going through snow-capped mountains and past sparkling lakes, until we descended to sea level once again, at Long Beach, part of the Pacific Rim National Park. This part of the park covers a stretch of coast running from the small town of Ucluelet to Tofino. The terrain is mostly jungly forest, but the real highlight are the beaches, the longest of which is 16km long Long Beach.

We started off at the southern tip, near Ucluelet, where the Wild Pacific trail winds around the rugged coast on a 45 minute loop through the forest.

Because the terrain was so rough and muddy, early settlers built a series of boardwalks through the bush, the remnants of which you can still catch glimpses of.

There are lots of little viewpoints along the trail, offering a spectacular view over Barclay Sound.

The trails leads past Amphirite Point Lighthouse, built in 1914, after the original lighthouse was destroyed by a tidal wave

With no land sheltering it from the open Pacific Ocean, this stretch of coast is known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific” due to the huge number of shipwrecks that have occurred here, particularly in earlier centuries, caused by a combination of jagged protruding rocks, fog, strong currents, storms and large waves.

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From the safety of the trail on a beautiful sunny day, however, the dangers seem distant.

Boardwalks continue to be the most practical way of getting through the dense forest, and we followed this one for a few kilometres…

…passing through ancient forests, and under fallen giants.

We could hear the roaring of the ocean before we could see it…

…but eventually we came out the other side at a small beach, finding a good spot for a picnic lunch.

This whole area is the traditional home of the Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) people, one of the few Pacific groups who hunted whales. They had a close relationship with nature, relying on the seas for fish, the land for berries and other small animals, and even tree bark to make baskets and textiles. Apart from the totem pole and a few informative signs about the history and habits of the Nuu-chah-nulth, there is little other trace here of a once thriving population.

From the time of early contact with European explorers up until 1830, more than 90% of the Nuu-chah-nulth were killed by STDs, malaria, and smallpox, and by the cultural upheaval that resulted from contact with Westerners.

From here, the beaches get longer and wider and you can walk for miles in the soft sand, though Roland confirms that it’s a bit too cold for swimming!

The cold water’s not enough to stop the surfers, however, who cover themselves with wetsuits to brave the waves!

We continued north to the touristy little town of Tofino, to stock up on provisions

Usually heaving with people in the summer, it’s pretty quiet this time of year and views from town are stunning!

We checked into the park campground and found that we were almost the only people there and had our pick of the sites! We chose a lovely one with views over the ocean, though the the beach is a long way down…

We were visited by lots of little critters, including this Marten, come to lick the grease out of the fire!

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As the sun was setting, we headed down to the beach, wrapped ourselves in a blanket and settled into the logs to watch the sunset…with a bottle of wine of course!

It must be noted that we were entirely unprepared for camping, so had to make do with a cut-in-half water bottle in lieu of wine glasses!

So, as the sun dipped into the Pacific, we said “cheers” to a perfect sunny day!

And finished the day off with a barbecue and marshmallow roast under a very starry sky

Things were back to normal the next day, and the rain was starting as we had one last walk on the beach…once we made it over the giant pile of logs deposited by this winter’s storms

It was amazing, and distressing, to see what else the storms brought in…bottles, tires, ropes, shoes, even hardhats. One of the most pristine and remote areas in the world and all our trash still finds its way here…

Well, atleast the crows were happy with their find

We embraced the rain and checked out the rainforest loop walk. These temperate rain forests are part of the largest temperate rainforests in the world, stretching from Alaska to northern California.

Everywhere you look, there are trees growing out of other fallen trees and moss and ferns clinging to everything. In sheer mass of living and decaying material – trees, mosses, shrubs, and soil – these forests are larger than any other ecosystem on the planet, and, in some areas, are four times more productive than tropical rain forests. Thankfully, some of these areas have been set aside as parks, but active logging in similar zones destroys these habitats forever!

After a few wonderful and spontaneous days away, it was time to drive the four hours back to the east side of Vancouver Island, to catch our ferry back to Saltspring. After all our travels, this remains one of the most impressive areas in the world, so I know we’ll be back!

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posté dans Canada, English
3 Commentaires pour

“Ski Surf and Sand”

  1. Le 10 avril 2011 à 18:00 cellier a dit:

    Coucou,
    I’m sorry my english is very bad and je n’ai pas tout suivi mais trés belles photos quand même Bises Martine

  2. Le 12 avril 2011 à 8:36 Pierre a dit:

    Je n’avais pas ouvert votre blog depuis pas mal de temps, ce qui fait que j’ai eu le plaisir de voir deux nouveaux épisodes en même temps…
    De fait, dans certains coins du Québec, on ne se sent pas dépaysé… mais je pense que cette impression reste très superficielle, et qu’au fond, il y a malgré tout un océan et quelques siècles qui nous en séparent…
    Je constate avec plaisir que mo neveu reste très épicurien et amateur de “spécialités” gastronomiques diverses et éventuellement écarlates…dans le ton des forêts, si on en croit les vues magnifiques dont vous nous faites profiter, en nous faisant regretter de ne pouvoir aller constater de visu la réalité des choses…
    Bises du vieux tonton et nouveau grand père…

  3. Le 4 juin 2011 à 16:52 MARIE-CLAIRE ET GE0RGES a dit:

    Pendant que vous vous éclatez à Barcelone je suis allée par curiosité sur votre site et ai été agréablement surprise de voir de nouvelles photos afin de nous faire rêver. Je pense qu’à votre retour au Canada nous verrons celles de l’Ecosse. Bises MC